SOUTH TEXAS (KRLD) -- More than 52,000 children have entered the country illegal in recent months, many of them coming into the U.S. through South Texas. Former Zapata County Sheriff Gonzales, who now works as a consult with law enforcement agencies along the Texas border, says space is running out to house the children and adults that are coming across.
"The local governments are being overwhelmed because of the possibilities for diseases. There are people that are being apprehended that are coming in with warrants for murders or prior convictions for child abuse, and these are the guys that are coming in the same groups with 12 year olds and 5 year olds," says Zapata. "They're looking at some centers in the valley... abandoned buildings where they're going to put fences inside the buildings to create detention cells and just throw people in there. "
Zapata says the situation is unprecedented, but the closest comparison would be to how the Astrodome in Houston was used during Hurricane Katrina, when 25,000 evacuees were housed inside of it.
"They're going to go in there and divide the whole building into 4 pieces or 8 pieces using a hurricane fence or a cyclone fence and just put people in... until they're processed."
Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), who works closely with agents along the border, confirmed the border patrol's intentions to create additional housing areas.
"Its basically a former warehouse and they're working on retrofitting that to re-house the kids," says Cuellar. "There's really no other places to do this, but we're trying to do the best that we can."
Customs and Border Patrol has been shipping illegal immigrants to facilities all over the country and reportedly are even looking at using an abandoned Walmart in New York, according to Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY).
"It is unacceptable the federal government is trying to force the hardworking taxpayers of New York to foot the bill to house undocumented immigrants," said Congressman Chris Collins. "The President's actions have fueled the current crises along the southern border, and now New York residents are being directly impacted by his irresponsible actions. If President Obama was committed to enforcing the immigration laws currently in place, this would not be an issue. Instead, the President has decided to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce, creating an environment where wrongdoing goes unpunished."
In San Antonio, federal officials say a child in a temporary shelter is still recovering from swine flu.
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says the unaccompanied child was recently hospitalized after being diagnosed with swine flu, or H1N1. Wolfe says officials believe this is an isolated incident but are closely monitoring all children at Lackland and other similar shelters the agency is operating around the country.
"That tells you that when you've got kids coming in from some of these countries where they don't have great health systems, we gotta watch out," says Cuellar. "I've talked to border patrol down in McAllen. They've seen TB; they've seen chicken pox; they've seen scabies. And according to Border Patrol, 4 or 5 of their agents have tested positive for those diseases."
You can follow Joe Gomez on Twitter at @JoeGomezKRLD.
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